A brace from Adam Jahn either side of a Michael Parkhurst own goal and a strike from Michael De Leeuw saw the points shared between the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew on a cold Thursday evening at Toyota Park. While Chicago will be disappointed to have conceded a late equalizer, they will take solace from the fact that they knocked their bitter rivals out of MLS Cup Playoffs contention.
With the point, Columbus sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference on 36 points. It is now impossible for them to overtake the Philadelphia Union in sixth, bringing a premature close to the season for last season's MLS Cup finalists.
Columbus off to dream start
The Crew ought to be disappointed at not taking the full three points from this game. After a poor piece of defending from the Fire allowed Jahn to open the scoring just 13 minutes into the game, they found themselves in solid control of the game. It felt like the only way they would allow Chicago back into it was through a defensive mistake, and they almost did in the 42nd minute when Nicolai Naess was dispossessed by Arturo Alvarez just outside of the Columbus penalty area. Alvarez advanced into the box, but struggled to create room for a shot and wound up skying the ball over the bar.
Fire eventually make them pay
While the hosts didn't make the Crew pay for that mistake, they did make them pay for Parkhurst's early in the second half. Alvarez was again involved, this time playing a delightful ball over the back line which David Arshakyan managed to bring down. He was unable to create separation from Parkhurst, but in the process of jockeying for the ball the defender sent it looping over his keeper and into the back of the net.
After equalizing, the hosts seemed intent on pushing on for another goal. It did not take them long.
Less than five minutes later, Alvarez was again the architect of a goal. He picked up the ball near the touchline, and proceeded to drive at Hector Jimenez. A flurry of stepovers left Jimenez for dead and Alvarez in perfect position to send in a cross. He cut the ball back for De Leeuw, who had chosen the perfect run and had a simple tap-in to put Chicago ahead.
Crew won't go away
Although coming back from a goal down on the road is never easy, with their playoff lives on the line it was always likely the visitors would find a way back into the game. They eventually did in the 80th minute, through a moment of magic from Jahn. A deflected cross found its way to the Columbus marksman with his back to goal and in nothing approaching a shooting position. However, he brought the ball down and turned in one motion before rifling the ball home on the half-volley with what has to be a candidate for Goal of the Week.
Late chances galore
The action was far from over, and each side had a terrific chance to seal all three points late on. In the 88th minute, Sean Johnson was called into action and forced to make a brilliant double save to keep the scoreline level. Just moments later, Steve Clark did him one better by keeping out Luis Solignac after the striker was in 1v1. Some blame must be attached to the striker because he had Alvarez completely alone in the middle of the box and elected to go alone, but nothing ought be taken away from the keeper, who made a terrific stop.
What does the result mean?
With the draw, Columbus are now eliminated from contention for the MLS Cup Playoffs. It's a heavy blow to one of last season's MLS Cup Finalists, but this has been a season filled with little but trials and tribulations for the Crew. They'll have to hope for some reinforcements in the offseason and a better season next term.
Meanwhile, Chicago now have a meager 28 points from 32 games, leaving them bottom of both the Eastern Conference and MLS tables, where they will likely finish for the second consecutive season. However, solace can be taken from extinguishing Columbus' playoff hopes.
Both teams still have two league matches to come. The Crew will now head out East where to face the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC on Sunday the 16th and Sunday the 23rd, respectively. Meanwhile, Chicago will enjoy friendly confines one last time when they host the New England Revolution this Sunday before finishing their season on the road at Toronto FC on the 23rd.